Friday, July 20, 2018

A Visit to Artemesia Daylilies

Last weekend we went on a little road trip that took us north of Toronto to Thornbury and Collingwood. In the winter, the Blue Mountains make this area perfect for skiing. In the summer, views of Georgian Bay and quaint restaurants and shops make it a popular tourist destination. While my husband was interested in poking around antique shops, I was wanted to do a little plant shopping. My mission– the perfect pink daylily.

Why drive miles and miles in search of dayliles? In large part it was just an excuse the escape the heat of Toronto and take a little drive in the country, but honestly, there is nothing like seeing a flower in front of you before you make your choice.

You get a much better idea a flower's true size and color than you ever could from a photograph. I have bought a number of pink dayliles from pictures, only to be disappointed with the shade of pink when it eventually blooms (I like cool pinks rather than peachy-pinks).

'Wild and Wonderful', which the catalog describes as "one of the most popular in the garden". Evergreen foliage. Vigorous grower and prolific bloomer.

'Red Suspenders' Dormant and slightly fragrant.

In pictures, I never liked these spidery-type dayliles, but in the field, I was surprised how much I liked them. They're often quite big and showy.

'Spacecoast Citrus Kick' Very vigorous and fast grower. Semi-evergreen foliage.

'White Base'. Very fragrant and evergreen foliage.

Some dayliles have ruffled petals and many have interesting markings. Often there is a contrasting throat color and/or flashes of color on the petals.

 'Only Believe' has 7 inch fragrant flowers. Semi-evergreen foliage.

Most nurseries carry a limited selection of daylilies, so if you're looking for something special, you may have to hunt down a nursery that specializes in growing them. Artemesia Daylilies, just south of Georgian Bay on the outskirts of a tiny town called Kimberly, is a pleasant drive from Toronto.

The barn set into the hillside.

The renovated farmhouse is home to the nursery's owners. 

 Alain watering the garden. This summer has been a hot, dry one here in Ontario.

For partners Alain Johnson and Jocelyn Bertrand growing daylilies was a hobby that grew into a business. They have a online catalogue and also welcome customers to shop in the fields that surround their renovated house and barn.

A closeup of the Trumpet vine on the arbor.

 Daylilies are not the only type of lilies in the garden.

'Lies and Lipstick' Semi-evergreen.

As their name suggests, daylilies open for a single day, but one scape can carry as many as thirty or so buds that will each open for a day. The higher the bud count per scape, the longer the period of bloom.

Of course the bloom of a daylily is key to your decision making, but in reality, your buying the complete package. When the daylily is right in front of you, the size and shape of the plant might alter your impression. For instance, one of the daylilies I admired in the field had broad green foliage and big flowers on short stems, while another had finer leaves and small, trumpet-like flowers on tall, reed-like scapes.

'Lucky Dragon', which is a great name. I'd love to have a lucky dragon in my own garden!

Growing Dayliles–The Basics:

Daylilies couldn't be easier to grow! They need full sun (except in the southern parts of the States where a break from the hot afternoon sun would be appreciated).

Daylilies are happy in average garden soil, but will grow more vigorously when the soil is amended with compost, leaf mould or well-aged manure.

Soil moisture is key to having spectacular blooms and will even encourage re-blooming.

Ideally, plant them in the spring or the fall. The spring will give the plant time to recover and bloom. In the fall, you can add spring bulbs into your planting hole.

Divide them in the spring. Water them well to encourage new growth.


There are three catergories of daylily foliage:

Evergreen – are the least cold tolerant. Hardy evergreens behave like Dormant daylilies in Canada (where there is insufficient snow cover, its a good idea to mulch them).

Semi-evergreen – Retain their foliage in warmer climates. Where winter freeze occurs, the foliage dies back.

Dormant – Regardless of the horticultural zone the plant is grown in, the foliage dies back to the ground in winter. Cultivars with dormant foliage tend to be the most cold hardy.

After flowering daylily foliage can look messy and unattractive. If you cut the plant back by half, new foliage will start to appear.

Plant type: Perennial

Flower: Flowers last a single day. They come in a wide range of colors including orange, cream, red, yellow, peach, pink and maroon.

Bloom period: 
Early – June into July
Midseason – July
Late – July into August


Light: Full sun

Divide: Early spring or fall

Problems: fairly pest and disease resistant. Deer may be an issue.

USDA Zones: 3-10

'Leebea Orange Crush' and 'Art Imperial'

'Good Old Boy' Semi-evergreen.


So what did I end up buying? My original mission to find the perfect pink flower went out the window when I saw this dark beauty! Alain Johnson couldn't have been nicer and gave me a really big plant to take home (without any idea of who I was).

For those of you who might like to do a little daylily shopping of your own, do a quick Google search to find a specialist nursery in your area. Update: An American reader has let me know that the American Hemerocallis Society website has a list of display gardens in the U.S. & Canada as well as a list of daylily sources by region.

For readers in Ontario, you can visit these daylily nurseries (they also ship within Canada):

Artemesia Daylilies is located at 235731 Grey Rd. 13, just 4kms north of Kimberley. They have hostas as well as an extensive array of dayliles. Visit their website for open times, directions and to see the online catalogue.

Dynamic Daylilies is located at 4500 South Service Rd., Beamsville, Ontario. Visit their website for open times, directions and to see the online catalogue.

Gardens Plus is a nursery and display garden featuring daylilies and hostas, but they also sell Coneflowers, Hellebores, Coral Bells and other perennials. 136 Country Rd 4, Donwood, Ontario (just east of Peterborough). Check their website for details, hours and to see the online catalogue. Here's a link to any older post I did on Gardens Plus.

Nottawasaga Dayliles is located in Creemore, Ontario. Visit their website for details and online catalogue.

We're in the Hayfield Now are holding their annual daylily festival on July 20, 21 & 22nd. I haven't been to their festival for a few years, but really enjoyed it when we went. They have been breeding daylilies for over 25 years and are located on 4704 Pollard Rd., Orono (east of Toronto). Check their website for details, hours and catalogue. Here's a link to a post I did on the Hayfield (it has since changed ownership, but I'm sure it's just as great as ever).

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The New Dwarf Hydrangeas

One of my favourites Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime' in with some other flowers 
in a late summer bouquet.

Just when I finally think I have everything planted, I see that hydrangeas are 50% off at a local nursery (Terra Nursery for anyone that happens to be local). What hydrangea lover resist such a deal? So of course I came home with two of the newer dwarf cultivars and am contemplating a run back to the nursery to buy a third one.

I absolutely adore Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens. They flower reliably from mid-July and look terrific right into the fall. Both types of hydrangea bloom on new wood, so there is no worry of flowerbuds dying overwinter (as they always seem to do for me on any type of Hydrangea macrophylla or Mophead hydrangeas). You can prune them as needed in early spring to remove last seasons flowers, any crossed or damaged branches and to adjust their shape/keep them compact.

In case your interested in a little bargain hunting yourself, here are some of the newer varieties of Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens to watch for:

The Dwarfs (starting with the smallest):

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Wee White'Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Wee White' is the same type of hydrangea as the classic and much-loved 'Annabelle', but in a very petite form. The flower are cream colored and the stems are nice and sturdy.

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Moisture: average (Mulch recommended to help conserve water)
Blooms on new wood (Prune in early spring. Cut the entire plant by one-third its total height)
Height: 12 - 30 Inches
Spread: 12 - 30 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo'

Last summer I added a Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' on either side of the back door. So far I am super pleased with them.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' forms a low rounded mound of green foliage and has white flowers that turn pink in the fall.

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Moisture: moderate moisture required
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 30-36 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Mini Mauvette'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Mini Mauvette' has deep, pinky-mauve flowers and sturdy stems that keep the large flowers from flopping. 

Minimum of 6 hrs. of sun
Moisture: average (Mulch recommended to help conserve water)
Blooms on new wood (Prune in early spring. Cut the entire plant by one-third its total height)
Height: 30-36 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Limetta'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Limetta' has a dwarf, rounded habit and lime-green flowers. The blooms lighten to a soft greenish-white before becoming jade-green for the rest of the season. 

Minimum of 6 hrs. of sun
Moisture: average 
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 36 - 48 Inches
Spread: 36 - 48 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Quick Fire'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

I had the full-sized Hydrangea paniculata 'Quick Fire' in the back garden and was so happy with its performance (in particular its drought tolerance), that I bought the dwarf version when it came out a couple of years ago. Like its big brother, 'Little Quick Fire' has done very well.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Quick Fire' flowers earlier than most other hydrangea paniculata. The blooms are white and then turn a fiery shade of pink as the fall approaches.

Part sun to sun 
Moisture: average (good drought tolerance once established)
Blooms on  new wood 
Height: 36 - 60 Inches
Spread: 36 - 60 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 
Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Ruby'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

This is one of the hydrangeas I bought on sale. The flowers are a deep reddish-magenta and I thought that it would look nice adjacent to a wine colored Ninebark and a pink 'Invicibelle Spirit'. The tag says full sun, so I am a little worried that it might not get enough sun where I planted it, but we'll see. I can always move it next year if it is unhappy. 

Smooth Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Ruby' opens to a two-toned combination of bright ruby red and silvery pink. The foliage is quite dark and flower stems are nice and strong. 'Invincibelle Ruby' is adaptable to most well-drained soils.

Full Sun 
Moisture: average
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 36 - 48 Inches
Spread: 24 - 36 Inches
USDA zones: 3-9 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little lamb'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little lamb' blooms mid-summer with cream colored flowers that become pink as fall approaches. It is adaptable to a variety of soils, but will be happiest in good, loamy soil. 

Part sun to sun 
Moisture: average (with some drought tolerance once established)
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 48 - 72 Inches
Spread: 48 - 72 Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll'. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll' is a bit like the full-sized Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky'. The flowers are pure white and then turn bright pink from the bottom up. As the weather cools, the flowers age further into a dark pinkish-red.

Part sun to sun (minimum of 6 hrs. of sun)
Heat Tolerant
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 54 - 72 Inches
Spread: 54 - 72  Inches
USDA zones: 3-8 

How to Choose a Dwarf Variety?

Smooth Hydrangeas, Hydrangea arborescens have broad, dome-shaped flowers and greenish, somewhat flexible stems. They need a minimum of six hours of sun (the exception being hot climates where some afternoon shade is beneficial). Based on my own experience, they really resent dry conditions, so keep that in mind as well. A layer of shredded bark mulch will help these shallow-rooted hydrangeas to conserve moisture, but if you're in area like mine where July and August are always dry, you may have to provide supplemental water.

Hydrangea paniculata have rounded or cone-shaped flowers and brown, woody stems. In colder zones like mine, they prefer full sun, but in warmer garden zones, they would appreciate a bit of afternoon shade. Like Hydrangea arborescens, they like moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If soil moisture is a worry, 'Little Lamb' and 'Little Quick Fire' are two somewhat drought tolerant options. Hydrangea paniculata' Zinfin Doll' is heat tolerant for those gardeners south of me.

Both the blooms of Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens are unaffected by the soil's pH level.

Generally Hydrangea paniculata require a light annual pruning. Smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) require that you cut the entire plant by one-third its total height early in the spring.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell'

This is the second hydrangea I bought. Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell' has a similar flower shape to 'Bobo' from Proven Winners and also matures into a rose-pink. It's a prolific bloomer that flowers earlier and longer than most other panicle hydrangeas. 

Part sun 
Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist
Blooms on new wood 
Height: 24-36 Inches
Spread: 36- 48 Inches
USDA zones: 4-8 

'Bombshell' seemed to be the perfect replacement for a hydrangea I lost mysteriously last fall after ten years or so in the garden. 

How about you? Are you still doing the odd bit of planting?

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Many thanks to Proven Winners for some of the photos in this post.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Yarrow: A perennial that can handle Heat, Drought & Poor Soil

If you are sitting on our front porch, you can't help but notice the industrious little ants scurrying across the flagstone walkway (Piper, our youngest Sheltie, finds them fascinating and likes to poke at the tiny black ants with his nose). There are actually two ant colonies–one at the far end of the pathway and one a little closer to the porch.

I prefer not to wage war on the creatures with whom I share my garden, but this feeling of good will was challenged a few summers back when one of my favourite phlox began to die mysteriously one stem at a time. A quick investigation revealed it was the ants and their earth-moving ways. I refuse to resort to pesticide, so I began to experiment with plants that might live in harmony with the two well entrenched colonies.

Yarrow in my garden.

That brings me to the main subject of todays post–Yarrow. Yarrow was one of the few plants that seemed to survive the ant's constant excavations (sedum groundcovers are another). The Yarrow actually seems to appreciate the sharp drainage provided by the sand soil the ants bring up to the surface.

Yarrow is a tough, drought tolerant perennial that likes a hot, dry, sunny location. Unlike so many perennials that like rich fertile soil, Yarrow is quite happy in average to poor soil (provided there is good drainage). If your garden soil is too rich, you may actually find that your yarrow flops.

Full sun is essential. Too much shade and Yarrow can become leggy.

Mid-summer Yarrow produces a profusion of round, flat blooms that are composed of of tiny, daisy-like flowers. Colors include yellow, pink, cream, peach, terra cotta, red and maroon.

Yarrow makes a great, long-lasting cut flower. It's also a great everlasting flower that can be hung to dry. Simply cut your flowers (morning is best) and tie them with a bit of twine. Hang them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight until the flowers are dry to the touch.

One final reason to grow Yarrow–bees and butterflies love this flower!

Growing Yarrow from Seed

Plant Yarrow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Sow seeds on the surface of moist potting soil and gentle press down. Place the tray in a warm, sunny location in the house. Your seeds should germinate in two to three weeks.

Myself, I prefer to buy small potted plants in the spring. Yarrow may bloom that first summer, but I find it takes a full season to really get established.

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' in my garden.

Growing Yarrow

The most important factor in being successful with growing Yarrow is giving it the conditions it requires; full sun, good drainage and average to poor soil. If your soil is heavy, add some organic matter and even some fine pebbles to improve the drainage.

Water well until your yarrow is established. Once it has settled in, you'll find Yarrow is very drought tolerant and may only require supplemental water during times of extreme drought.

Unlike most perennials, Yarrow doesn't require any fertilization.

Yarrow can look rather tired after it flowers. I've found it's best to cut the whole plant back hard. It will look awful for a couple of weeks, but you'll be rewarded with fresh green growth and maybe even a second flush of flowers in late summer/early fall.

Divide Yarrow every three to five years in the early spring or in the fall.

Pests and Diseases

Yarrow is pretty resistant to pests, but aphids can occasionally be an issue. A good blast of water from the hose can dislodge the aphids. If the problem persists, you can use an insecticidal soap.

Powdery mildew and rust can also pose a problem. To eliminate the possibility of mildew, avoid watering the foliage, if possible, and allow for good air flow between plants.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction'

Invasive Tendencies

Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium can be invasive and is considered by many to be an aggressive weed. Underground rhizomes can colonize a flowerbed and will sometimes will even spread to the grass.

Achillea millefolium was introduced to North America in colonial times from Europe and Asia. Since that time it has escaped from gardens to naturalize along roadsides and in fields.

To control Yarrow's wandering ways, pull up any of the wandering underground stems in the spring just after it rains (the ground is softer after a rainfall). To eliminate the plant's spread by seed, deadhead the flowers before they set seed. Yarrow seeds remain viable for years!

Different Yarrows to watch for:

While the species plant Achillea millefolium spreads by underground rhizomes, many of the modern cultivars and hybrids have improved features like stronger stems, larger flowers and a clump-forming habits.  

I have made a note in each of the descriptions below as to which varieties are clump-forming and which types are more likely to wander. 

Achillea 'Moonshine' is a classic Yarrow that has pale yellow flowers and silver-grey, fern-like foliage. This cultivar is non-spreading and makes a nice clump. Full sun. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

A closer look at the foliage of Achillea 'Moonshine' 

Achillea 'Little Moonshine' is a shorter version of 'Moonshine'. It has the same canary-yellow flowers and silver-grey foliage, but on dwarf plant. This cultivar is also non-spreading and makes a nice clump. Full sun. Height: 30-35 cm (12-14 inches), Spread: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Hoffnung' has yellow flowers that fade to cream and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar is inclined to spread, so locate it carefully. Full sun. Height: 50-60 cm (20-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Achillea Anthea is a British hybrid that has yellow flowers tinged with peachy-orange and silver-grey foliage. This cultivar has a non-spreading habit. Full sun. Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Little Susie' has rose-pink flowers and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar is inclined to spread, so reduce the size of the clump each spring. Full sun Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Saucy Seduction' has reddish-pink flowers and green fern-like foliage. This cultivar has a spreading habit. Full sun. Height: 50-65 cm (20-25 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' has orange-red flowers with a yellow centre and green fern-like foliage. The spread of 'Strawberry Seduction' is less aggressive that the species Yarrow. Full sun. Height: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Colorodo' is a strain that produces flowers in shades of red, pink, white and peach. This variety is inclined to spread, so you ought to site it carefully. Full sun. Height: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' has cherry-red flowers and green fern-like foliage. This variety is also inclined to spread, so its growth will need to be curtailed each spring. Full sun. Height: 45-75 cm (18-29 inches), Spread: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Companion Plants

Yarrow looks great with a whole range of sun-loving perennials that bloom mid-summer. Mix them in with ornamental grasses,Veronica, Sedum, Echinacea, Daylilies, Shasta Daisies, Lychnis and Rudbeckia.

Pink and a red yarrow mixed with other perennials. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' and Veronica 'Eveline'

Achillea 'Moonshine' in the middle distance. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Achillea 'Moonshine'  with Veronica 'Eveline'. Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

 Soft pink yarrow mixes nicely with purple, white and orange flowers. 
Private garden Uxbridge, Ontario.

Plant type: Perennial

Height: Depending on variety 12-29 inches (30-75 cm)

Spread: Depending on variety 14-29 inches (60-75 cm)

Flower: A range of colors including pink, cream, red, yellow, peach, terra cotta and maroon

Bloom period: Summer

Leaf: Soft, fern-like foliage

Light: Full sun

Divide: Early spring or fall

Problems: Aphids, powdery mildew, rust and stem rot

USDA Zones: Depending on variety from 2-9
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